Annual Business Meeting-January, 2022
Message from the President
I am honored to have served as President last year and to serve again. Throughout this pandemic many of us have noted how flexible time appears to be and I’m sure I am not the only one wondering where 2021 went. These last almost two years people in every country in the world are feeling the strain of the isolation, uncertainty, frustration and loss – and the anxiety that comes along with all of these emotions. Therapists are having to support an increasing number of clients seeking help with managing difficult emotions, while we are also going through similar feelings. I am proud of the work that our members have continued to do throughout yet another challenging year. You have all continued to meet with clients, some of you have continued to go to school, some of you have published books, some of you have started your own private practice or changed jobs. and all while dealing with the continued challenges of the pandemic, political turmoil and civil unrest. All this while facing the same anxiety, isolation and uncertainty that are troubling those who seek our services. Many of us are facing burnout, and the board has experienced challenges with vacancies. Please contact us if you are interested in serving on the board
Our collaboration with SoCalATA has helped revitalize and energize us and we are excited about the varied ways we can be stronger by working together. This past year has demonstrated how important community and self care have become in supporting our members in overcoming many of the challenges of the last year. Last year members participated in surveys which have served to inform our decision to provide monthly virtual self care sessions hosted by our Regional Representatives to offer a sense of community, reduce isolation and provide a space to make art and try to heal our souls. A week before our Annual Board Retreat last Fall, which we had been very excited about having in a beautiful creative space in Oakland, there was yet another surge in cases of COVID and the decision was made to have it virtually, yet again. We remain hopeful that this year, we will all have the opportunity to make art together in person and brainstorm as we are reinvigorated. The board is proud of our Virtual blog that includes publications by members, reviews of events, art therapist profiles, announcements and more. We look forward to more contributions by our members. As our members look at our blog, we hope that our website is bookmarked and used as a resource by our members. In spite of the pandemic, we are proud to have continued to provide quality, well-attended programs that provide our members opportunities to continue to learn, grow and earn much needed CEUs.
We are proud of our efforts towards promoting SCR-60 Art Therapy Resolution to California State Senators and Assembly persons; we wrote, signed and sent out more than 25 letters to the politicians to thank them for their commitment to supporting the profession of art therapy and the overall mental healthcare services in the state of California. Although it was not taken up or voted on last year, it will be reintroduced this year. None of the efforts I described would be possible without the perseverance of our members and the amazing work of our board members, who selflessly volunteer their time. Thank you to the board and our members for your continued flexibility, patience, understanding, & support as we continued to have monthly board meetings and programs virtually. I am so grateful to the 2021 Board for making your very tireless and worthwhile contributions and dedication in order to promote and advocate for art therapy to the community, provide quality programs and education opportunities and bring our community together. I know it has been especially hard this year and I am truly grateful.
Nationally, art therapists have already achieved distinct licensure for art therapists in seven states – Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oregon. Another fifteen states have engaged art therapists in licensure campaigns. Each license is different, but all have the same elements incorporating education and examinations to allow for easier portability from state to state. In California, Authorship of Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 60 was submitted: “Art Therapy Week of Civic Engagement” that would recognize the week of October 10, through October 16 every year as Art Therapy Week of Civic Engagement to commemorate the contributions of professional art therapists to California’s communities. The Resolution, passed through the Senate with unanimous support from both sides with many Senators speaking in support of it. However, due to the end of session deadline on September 10, SCR 60 was held in the Assembly and unfortunately not taken up or voted on. Fortunately, Senator Nielsen will reintroduce this Resolution in 2022. We hope it is passed next time is it presented this year. Do you want to be more involved in making steps towards licensing in California?! Reach out! https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SCR40
During the Annual Business Meeting, we reflected upon the idea of “Challenge to Success” and how often out of challenges comes success. We are so proud that several of our members and former board members are authors in a recently published book: Art Therapy in Response to Natural Disasters, Mass Violence, and Crisis. The book includes contributions by Katrina Bobo, Cynthia Wilson, Devora Wineapple and Robin Valiente.
Honorary Lifetime Member Award
During our Annual Business Meeting, we presented Jen Mank with the Honorary Lifetime Member Award. Like a few of us, Jen had another career before this one. Prior to becoming an art therapist, Jen was an electro-mechanical draftsman for several companies in the medical and technological industries in New England. Jen received her Bachelors degree in Fine/Studio Arts from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 2004, due to her interest in art, and drawing in particular. The ability to express emotions through the arts propelled Jen’s desire to become an art therapist.
In 2007, Jen received her Masters in Art Therapy from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee and received her Art Therapy Registration and Board Certification in 2011. Jen received her Doctorate of Philosophy in Art Therapy from Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) in 2019. Jen clinical activities include working with older adults in various developmental stages of the aging process as well as in memory care. Jen also has clinical experience working with transitional youth and adults with chronic and severe mental illness. Jen has interned and worked in a variety of settings in California and Wisconsin facilitating individual and group art therapy as well as marriage and family therapy. Jen has received drum circle facilitation training, is certified in Music Medicine. Jen’s book, Self-Expression Through Art and Drumming: A Facilitator’s Guide to Using Art Therapy to Enhance Drum Circles was published at the end of 2020. Jen has served as Co-Director of Programs since 2017 and we are SO grateful for all Jen has done for NorCATA and the art therapy community – THANK YOU!
Please consider joining our Linked In group, which is growing as we attract more interest and promote the field to people who otherwise may not know it exists, or what it is. https://www.linkedin.com/groups/1879462/
Co-Creating Anti-Racist Community
November 21 -Jen Bloomer, Amber Simmons, MFT and Stephanie Garma Balón, MA, AMFT
This workshop covered five ways to use the arts for anti-racist introspection and community change. We shared stories and examples of those who are doing this transformative work in the world. Time was given to using the arts to reflect on our own journeys and to connect and share in small affinity groups. We also engaged in large group discussions focused on widespread change and building ongoing community.
Navigating Pet Loss and Grief
Dr. Serena Martinez-Coleman, Ph.D., LMFT, ATR-BC
The time had come to say good-bye to our sweet dog of ten years. I felt unprepared and overwhelmed with emotions. I had to navigate pet loss for the first time as a pet owner. Many difficult decisions had to be made with thoughtfulness and urgency. With a short amount of time, I located any art materials for keepsake items. Model magic clay was used as each of my children chose a color and gently pressed his paw into the clay. The model magic clay offered an easy and clean process that did not seem to bring any discomfort to our sweet dog. The clay air dried quickly and even left imprints of fur and scent from his paw.
Saying good-bye was excruciating, but the moments right after felt even worse as reality hit. Instead of returning home without our sweet dog, our family took a detour to the beach. There was something in the touch of the sand, the fresh air, and the coldness of the water that was needed. I watched as my family adjusted differently to the environment; each of us navigating our loss in the sensory landscape. We drew in the sand with our fingers. We used small shells and rocks to create a heart and his name. I stood in the cold ocean water and watched footprints be made and fade into the sand. All of us sat together on our sweet dog’s blanket to watch the sun go down behind the waves. I believe the beach provided a space of freedom to just be and release what was needed before returning home. There was beauty, sadness, and gratitude in watching the golden sunset and thinking of our sweet dog in a different place without pain.
It has been one month since that day. I miss my furry companion every day. The clay paw prints that were made can be held in my family’s hands today and bring a form of comfort. The loss of our sweet dog had an emotional impact on not only my family but also our other pet. As a therapist, I can recognize that grief exists at many levels and each person or animal can experience it differently. Yet, as a pet owner, I was wrong in thinking that I was not going to mourn the loss of our sweet dog as much as the loss of a friend or family member. I felt compelled to write this brief blog to therapists as a reminder that losing a pet may be like losing a family member.
There are circumstances that can be traumatic and overwhelming in the final months, days, and moments for pet owners to plan to say good-bye to a beloved pet. I am thankful for my compassionate family and friends that honestly shared their own experiences with pet loss. I did not fully understand the complexity until I was going through it. This experience has made me realize the importance of therapists working with clients navigating pet loss and life’s transitions without a furry companion. Responses of “oh, it was just a dog” can happen and does not validate the loss someone may be experiencing. What if the pet was the only other living thing in the home or the sole companion of the pet owner? The loss may be unmeasurable. Compassion is needed in pet loss and the grief that can exist afterwards. For those that have grieved a pet, my heart is with you.
Neurographics: A New Drawing Method to Calm the Mind and Change the World
Devora Weinapple, MA, MFT, ATR-BC
Neurographica, or Neurographic Art, is a relatively new art form that was conceived and developed by Russian psychologist Pavel Piskarev in 2014. He describes the process as “a creative method for transforming the world.” The word ‘Neurographica’ comprises two words: neuron – a cell that carries messages between the brain and other parts of the body and is the basic unit of the nervous system; and graphics – the artist’s use of pictures, shapes, and words. Neurographic drawings, or algorithms, can help us change our reality by engaging more neurons for problem solving, creating focus, and calming our nervous system. From a graphical perspective, neural networks are represented by circle-like shapes connected by lines, visually similar to natural structures such as molecules, capillaries, veins in leaves, galaxies, etc. Neurographic drawing has been used throughout the Russian-speaking world since 2014, and has proliferated internationally since its translation into English and other languages.
About six months ago, one of my adult clients suffering from chronic insomnia introduced me to a drawing method she’d seen on YouTube. These videos had been authored by self-styled instructors of neurographics. During the pandemic, many teachers in the US have calmed classrooms of remote students by instructing them in basic neuro art. This skill helps the students (and the teachers themselves) self-soothe and focus.
Neurographic drawing can help bring about positive change by allowing us to recognize and release habitual patterns of thought, or to discover solutions to thorny problems. Neurographics can be used as an art meditation for self-exploration, grounding, centering, and bringing more balance to our minds and our lives.
The 6 steps of the basic neurographic algorithm are:
- Decide on a problem or issue you’d like to work on through your drawing
- Consider the tension of the issue by making an energetic, continuous drawing – a line that crosses over itself – in no more than 3 or 4 seconds
- Round all corners, or intersections, that are created by the crossed lines in your drawing
- Integrate the shape into the background by drawing additional “field lines” that connect the shape with the edges of the page, and some that criss-cross the entire page
- Round all corners that were created as a result of drawing the field lines
- Reflect on your drawing, and any feelings about the imagery that results
Although beginners often have trouble finding all the intersections that need rounding, the process of finding and rounding is meditative, methodical, and soothing. Perfection is not needed or expected. All sides of a rounded intersection can look like neuronal connections in the brain. In the process of rounding, our brain makes the completion of implied circles. Circles are representations of Jungian ideas of wholeness, unity, and harmony. In brain mapping and MRIs of Russian patients who were drawing neurographica during research studies, their heart rates and breathing rates were shown to slow dramatically. A greater sense of safety occurs in the body as the mind is occupied in this calming process. Sharp edges represent danger of the unknown, conflict, fighting, or pain. The brain’s job is to protect us from the sharp angles that are present in our lives. Often some angles are missed due to lack of focus, concentration, or just blindness to habit patterns. Every line is connected to a thought impulse in the brain. The more connections made, the more energy created, the more likely we will see a possible solution to our problems, or at least gain a little more insight.
Neurographic art is a process that bypasses the rational thinking mind, activates the unconscious mind, and creates new neural networks. The hand and brain are connected, in tandem, or we would not be able to pick up or touch what is in front of us. Neurographics uses this connection to loosen and redirect the habitual thought patterns that create fear and confusion leading to avoidance..
The difference between Neurographic drawing and doodling involves drawing an emotion as a visual gesture on the page. It is felt in the body, and then drawn intuitively, in 3 or 4 seconds. The sharp angles that were created in the original emotional shape become transformed through the rounding process. The prefrontal cortex can take a breather as can the brain’s evaluative tendencies. After adding field or ground lines, intuitive circles, and color, you then look at your work from a distance and see how it feels in your body and your mind.
The most immediate effect of drawing in this way is that the mind is able to enter a quiet, meditative, flow state. Results range from immediate insights and revelation to more profound changes in one’s life and circumstances – similar to the benefits of more traditional meditative practices.
My experience using Neurographic drawing in my client sessions has been positive across the board. My teen clients find that it helps them focus and provides a necessary escape from their stressful worlds. Many have worked on drawings during the week especially when they are feeling stressed out, and often listen to music. Common issues that arise in session among clients of all ages are feelings of self-criticism, judgment, and perfectionism. This technique provides an opportunity for clients to gain insight about their tendency towards negative self-talk. Some clients ask for step by step specifics, and are able to derive satisfaction and feelings of mastery through practice at home during the week. For one client, the process is daunting, frustrating, and highlights her feelings of inadequacy. Even as these negative habits of mind are brought to the surface, she has made significant progress by being able to see how her own habits of mind cause her to suffer. For other clients, neurographic drawing is a vehicle for self-discovery, bringing surprise and delight as new meaning in personal imagery is revealed.
After initially learning the technique, I went through a phase of filling sketchbooks with these drawings, and finding my own flow and satisfaction; even though my own self-critic was often right there on my shoulder.
I highly recommend neurographic drawing to anyone interested in self-exploration by making intuitive art that can also bring deep calm from states of stress, anxiety, chronic pain, grief, and more.
For more information and instructional videos:
This 8-minute video by certified Neurographica instructor Anna Romanenko is a free basic tutorial on drawing neurographic lines. In this 13-minute video, Anna describes the rounding process. In this 2-hr introductory class, Anna gives a comprehensive review of the technique along with her vision about the method:
“The philosophy is to connect small details in bigger shapes, bigger meanings, bigger energies. To see how everything in the world is connected and supportive. We draw our life, our thoughts, our emotions and they all are connected and depend on each other.”
Learn more about Neurographica: Source information can be found through the Neurographica Psychology of Creativity Institute.
One of my early neurographic drawings. Colored pencil
Devora Weinapple, MFT, ATR-BC is in private practice in Menlo Park, CA. She sees mostly teens and young adults with anxiety, depression, and trauma histories. She is also an outpatient provider for Kaiser. Devora is Director of Website and Graphics on the board of ArtsUnityMovement, a Peninsula non-profit that creates change and healing by uniting communities through interactive dance performance, community events and expressive arts workshops. Devora is a past president of NorCATA (2014-2016), and had served in various capacities on the board from 2013-2020.
Devora Weinapple MFT,
Andrea Rose Jones, Dominican University Art Therapy Department
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is rampant in the United States. In addition, CSA is underreported and undertreated (Murray, 2014). In 2015 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported approximately one in four girls and one in thirteen boys experience sexual abuse by the age of eighteen with an overwhelming majority of cases being perpetrated by family members or people known to the family (CDC, 2021). According to childwelfare.gov (Child maltreatment, 2019) over four hundred thousand cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2019. The consequences of untreated CSA affect a person throughout their lifespan. Even with treatment, recovery from trauma is ongoing.
Traditional evidence-based treatments for trauma treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) focus on the pathological symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but 30% of clients have been shown to be unresponsive to these treatments most likely because traumatic memories are largely nonverbal. Alternative methods of accessing traumatic memories, such as art therapy have been shown to be highly effective, not only in accessing the trauma narrative, but in transforming the resultant negative autobiographical concept of self. Teaching someone to cope with the effects of trauma is an essential piece of trauma recovery, but most people want more than relief from suffering. Once the suffering is managed, people want to enjoy and enhance their lives, they want lives filled with meaning (Seligman, 2004). This research will employ an arts-based narrative approach with a strength-based focus. Participants will explore PTG narratives through the use of altered book making. The purpose of this study is to provide a deeper understanding of PTG through an aesthetic mixed methods research design to explore shifts in dominant stories, meaning making, happiness, and sense of self.
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Links of Interest
Lewis and Clark
Californians for the Arts
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